Of Organisational Silos, Polymaths and the History of Art

It is interesting to observe that many, many wise benedictions on the topic of breaking down silos and valourising polymaths exist but it is questionable as to the extent of the actual application, acceptance or widespread acceptance of the associated concepts. Disassembling silos is vital for the emergence of scale-independent, adaptive, flexible and resilient self-organisational structure and is everywhere valourised but rarely broadly adopted; “open-systems” very easily becomes another tool in a library of objective functions to be called and then shut down once marginal transactional utility had been acquired – totally missing the point.

Polymaths are profoundly useful but are also almost everywhere channelled into narrowly-defined roles or limited opportunities for creativity. As diverse skills become more valuable, organisational methods become more compressed, streamlined – leading to less opportunity for authentic novelty and genuinely disruptive innovation.

The History of Art is a history of innovation, conceptual polymaths and open-ended systemic and cultural creativity and if it brings anything to this table, it is that the recombinatory conceptual vocabulary of any era is only ever contingent, transient. There is no “best” way, there are only ever “better” ones but it is of the nature of psychology and cognition to become attached to stasis without acknowledging that it is transformation that brings value.

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